Dickson Calls for a Public Inquiry into the Islandmagee Caverns Gas Storage Project
East Antrim Alliance MLA, Stewart Dickson, has written to the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, asking whether a public inquiry will be established to address issues related to the Islandmagee Caverns Gas Storage Project. An inquiry could consider the project’s application for a marine construction licence, as well as matters related to discharge consent and Utility Regulator consents.
The Islandmagee Gas Storage Project has proved controversial, with NI’s main conservation groups strongly opposed to the plans based on environmental grounds related to the potential risk posed to wildlife and habitats. However, if the project was to go ahead, Infrastrata, the firm behind the project, has said hundreds of jobs will be created as well as the promise of power supply security for the next generation.
Mr Dickson said: “It is vital that the right call is made on this project as the reverberations for the environment and wildlife could be considerable. These are always difficult decisions, especially at a time when new jobs are desperately needed, and so I think the best course of action for the Minister is to refer this matter to a public inquiry so every issue can be considered in turn.”
In response to Mr Dickson’s written question, the Minister responded by stating he is expecting to be presented with ‘a portfolio of documents’ related to the project’s application. Before deciding next steps, there will be a review of the existing abstraction licence and discharge consent, and other consenting authorities will need to be engaged – a responsibility which will lie with the developer.
Crucially, the response left the door open to the possibility of a public inquiry before any final determination.
Mr Dickson commented: “I am glad to hear that the Minister is keeping all of his options on the table in regard to this application - especially the option for a public inquiry. The Minister freely recognises that he serves Northern Ireland in its entirety, and an enquiry will go a long way towards demonstrating this responsibility to the people.”